Last year I presented on creating a sense of place at work. Our sense of place affects how we feel, our loyalties and our motivation. If we have a strong sense of place, then we feel that we belong, are valued and can conduct our work with integrity and gratification.

How the landscape has changed since I gave this presentation.

Covid-19 threatens our health and the economy, but it has also changed, probably forever, the way that we interact with the spaces that we call our home and work, the places where we want to feel most at ease and productive.

As our minds shift towards maintaining a physical distance and ‘hand hygiene’ becomes part of our daily vocabulary, how do we think about embracing change and creating a new sense of place in our workplace?

The principles remain the same, while the practicalities may change. 

  • While ergonomics is essential both at home and work, comfort is also psychological, when its time to return to the office, adhere to the 1.5-metre rule respecting your colleagues’ personal space and continue to take advantage of virtual platforms for communication.
  • The ability to adjust the level of noise is essential to maintaining our sanity. We can’t turn down our colleagues, kids or spouses, but we can use tools such as noise-cancelling headphones, or move away from the noise to a quiet space.
  • Sometimes in the course of our work, we need privacy, to have conversions, whether personal or work-related; we need to able to speak freely and confidentially. Maintaining a private space and indicating to others that at this time privacy is necessary can help alleviate anxiety or frustration.
  • Hot desking, for the time being, is out, allow employees to personalise their space, make it their own. Aspire for them to feel that there are special and unique characteristics about their space, and to be safe, confident, and foster loyalties to this place.

Where there is change, there is always opportunity. Undoubtedly employees’ perception of their workplace will have changed. There will be physical and interactive adaptions which will alter our sense of belonging and safety. Understanding and acknowledging the breadth of perceptions in your workforce, openly communicating about change and being proactive in finding opportunities will all be needed to strengthen our sense of place during these COVID times.